At least eight people were killed and 12 others injured after a vehicle plowed into a crowd of spectators at a popular off-road race in Southern California, local media reported. The accident occurred at about 7.40pm on Saturday (2.40am GMT Sunday) at a race called the California 200, which is traditionally held in Soggy Dry Lake Bed near the city of Lucerne Valley in the Mojave Desert, MSNBC television reported.
The tragedy is being investigated by the California Highway Patrol, which has has sent its major accident investigation team to the location, reports said. Local fire official Tim Franke told The Los Angeles Times at least four of the injured were in serious condition and were taken by air ambulance to nearby trauma centers. According to a report by KCAL 9, a local Los Angeles television station, the accident happened at the beginning of the race, when one of the off-road vehicles went off the track from the starting line and plunged into a crowd of spectators.
The dry lake is located about 165 kilometres northeast of Los Angeles. The Times said the race was organised by Mojave Desert Racing (MDR), a Southern California corporation headquartered in South El Monte. The corporate website insisted MDR organised 12 desert car races in a year for 20 different classes of vehicles and provided "an exciting, rewarding, and safe environment for off-road racing in four locations: Barstow, Lucerne Valley, Ridgecrest, and Plaster City".
But KABC TV reported that amateur videos taken during of last year's race showed off-road vehicles performing stunts close to spectators with only plastic netting separating them. A total of 87 drivers were registered to take part in Saturday's race, The Times said. *AFP